I scanned the Googleverse for the word assault. Of the top ten news stories with the word assault in it, nine of them involved men as the perpetrators, be it sexual against women, or with lethal force against other men, and the remaining item in the top ten list was military related. Not surprising really.
In a Guardian article by Amanda Marcotte on October 1st, she asserted that “America is awash in angry white men for whom guns are a prop for lost power.” One month to the day after the Guardian article appeared there was the killing of a TSA agent in Los Angeles, the story has been tagged, “Another angry young man.” He was described as a troubled, “pissed-off patriot”…with suicidal tendencies. It’s likely the focal point will end up on the second amendment, and another ‘men’s group’ – the NRA. It won’t focus on male issues like mental health, power myths, and suicide, nor will money flood into men’s centres across the nation. Marcotte concluded her article like this, “Guns turn grown men into childish idiots who want to believe their expensive and deadly toys give them power.” That sentence is akin to spinning on the balls of her feet and slamming the door on the way out – after a metaphorical slap.
In the same Googleverse search mentioned above, there was a series of stories about groping from the Georgia Strait, a Vancouver weekly. There is a campaign planned in December of this year to reduce sexual harassment on the Vancouver metro. In those articles, two women’s studies undergraduates, and Ms Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, the executive director of a Vancouver woman’s centre, used the terms ‘sexual assault’ and ‘sexual harassment’ interchangeably. And arguably, that is how the law views the terms, fair enough.
According to one of the articles, Ms Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer was quoted as saying. “It’s about males changing their behaviour and the way that they think about women. I think it would be a really important message when we think about the backlash that women get when they try to identify that it’s male violence that is at issue.”
To say that it’s a male violence issue, is stigmatising half the population. Of course you’ll get backlash when it is phrased like that. To call them sexual deviants, and mentally ill, identifies the perpetrators, but to insinuate that gropers are normal men, is an angry insult directed towards the massive majority of men who don’t sexually assault.
Maybe what Ms Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer is trying to say, but doesn’t know how, is that she would like men to help her and the two Women’s Studies undergrads with an issue they care about…
The awareness campaign will, cue the circus music, heighten tension, create fear, and really do nothing to reduce the groping, because gropers are not your normal men who’d respond to the logic that – groping is deviant behaviour. Undeniably, the agents of the ladies discomfort – are men. But that’s too simple and insensitive a finger to point. Men are fixers. So, is the discomfort of some women on the Vancouver metro up to men to fix? No. It is up to society to force gropers to fix their aggressive deviant behaviour. It is not up to men to fix an environment that creates discomfort, it is up to society, men and women, working together through policing and also education, support, and counselling. However, it is troubling and insulting to say that the gropers are normal. If they are normal, then why fix it? They are not normal, they are at least marginally unsound individuals who likely need support and education, not castigation and aggression.
I understand the fear, not in the same way a woman does, but I get it. And so does the Transit Authority, according to their 2012 annual report, assaults are down “and crime was reduced against people on the SkyTrain system by 17 per cent over the same period in 2011.” The spokeswoman for The Transit Police was quoted as saying, “But we are interested in sexual harassment, which we consider to be a form of sexual assault.” Which in fact it is. However, one young woman wrote that she had to come up with manoeuvres to avoid being abducted or groped. Abducted or groped? Abducted? How did she know she was going to be abducted? That is border line hysteria.
Taking a look at the Transit Authority’s 2012 annual report you can get a clear picture of unhappy passengers, “A record overall customer service rating of 7.7 out of 10 in 2012. At the same time, the number of complaints per one million passengers decreased to its lowest level of the last five years.” And the percentage of complaints received from increasing passengers? Very little, 0.008% had complaints, that number expressed differently means that 99.992 passengers per 100 had no complaints. That’s admirably close to pure gold.
The groping awareness campaign is like a social partnership between the Coalition for Progressive Electors (COPE), and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company Ltd. (BCRTC). It may lead to job creation. To quote from the 2012 annual report, “Salaries, wages and benefits increased by $17.3 million (3.3 per cent) over 2011. The increase can be attributed to […] contractual increases for COPE and BCRTC employees, [and] higher employer-paid benefit costs, […].”
COPE, a housing activist group is, according to their charter, “working hard to make Vancouver affordable and sustainable. We are a diverse coalition of working people dedicated to empowering our neighbourhoods. With your help, we’re fighting to end the housing crisis, reverse climate change, build strong public transit, and make Vancouver fun again.”
The planned campaign is more than a school project, or a tempest in a tea-cup, it is an important issue. Who wants to be hassled anywhere? As masters of society men have been called upon by the ladies to make it better. We have been asked to up our game, the ladies can’t do it on their own. It may be a job creation issue to stop groping on public transit, but to do so on the backs of decent, non-groping men is insulting and insensitive, if not a counter-productive way to push the initiative.